by Constable Bruce Elfant 

During the last year Austin’s unemployment rate has risen from 4.5% to 7.2%. While we have fared better than Texas (8.3%) and the nation (10.2%), thousands of people in the Austin area have lost their jobs, had their hours reduced and their health benefits cut. According to the American Community Survey about 150,000 Austin residents live below the federal poverty rate which is about $21,000 for a family of four or about $10 per hour for a single wage earner.  

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that several thousand Austinites are homeless. The Austin Independent School District has determined that 3,000 to 5,000 of their students live on the streets. The homeless population includes people with mental health, alcohol and substance issues, veterans and those who lost jobs or were bankrupted by health care costs. 

While economic forecasts for Austin are optimistic, it will be a long while before unemployment recedes to last year’s levels. That is of little comfort to thousands of Austinites who find themselves and their families worse off than last year. 

The good news is that Austin is blessed with a multitude of nonprofit agencies whose missions are to assist people with food, clothing, housing, healthcare and holiday cheer especially for children. These agencies need our help now more than ever as the economic downturn has caused a decrease in donations. The holiday season is the perfect time to aid those in the community who need help.  For assistance in locating a local nonprofit or charity, visit the I Live Here, I Give Here website at  I Live Here, I Give Here is a one stop shop for citizens to visit and select a nonprofit from various categories. 

I hope you and your family enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.